Do your eyes deceive you? As if you needed to ask...

Jeremy Paxman was pretending to talk to a man who was no longer there

I DIDN'T see the Carlton TV programme about drug money, The Connection, which The Guardian claimed was full of trickery and fakery. Come to that, I didn't see The Guardian claims that the programme was rigged, either, but I did see a copy of Broadcast, the weekly magazine about TV and radio, which reported the whole affair in some alarm. Assuming the piece in Broadcast was not a leg-pull, it seems that the Carlton award-winning documentary was pulling the wool over our eyes, and the drug-money-laundering activities were sort of invented for the report.

That was bad enough.

What The Guardian and Broadcast didn't report was something worse, that a recent edition of Newsnight was also rigged.

There was a sequence in which Jeremy Paxman was asking questions of a well known politician, and the politician was giving his well known answers. As the politician talked, the camera cut to Paxman for his reactions, and he was seen nodding slightly, as if he was interested either in what the man was saying, or in the next question he was going to put to him.

I can now reveal that Paxman was not, while seen nodding, in fact listening to the politician at all.

Indeed, the politician was not there at all.

The politician had had to leave in a hurry after the interview, and so the reaction shots had to be done while Paxman was all alone. I can also reveal that Paxman had to ask some of the questions again long after the politician had given the answers and disappeared, and was therefore pretending to talk to a man who was not there.

The BBC is well aware that this kind of deception takes place on a regular basis, and refuses to do anything about it.

I can further reveal that Jeremy Paxman is not the only television performer guilty of this sort of deception. Everyone else does it as well. Almost everyone you see on TV nodding or smiling or frowning in agreement and disagreement is doing it for the camera, long after the moment which provoked the reaction has passed.

Almost everything that happens on television doesn't really happen. It has to be rehearsed, rearranged, repeated, reassembled or dismantled, so that it works. Contests on game shows say the spontaneous things they have planned beforehand. Canned laughter is fed in, just in case the audience doesn't laugh loud enough. Even when a documentary is telling the truth, it has to fix things to make them seem as true as they are.

I can reveal that the cinema is no less guilty than television. When the hero falls from the train, or jumps on to the passing horse, it is very often not the star whom we are watching, but a stunt man.

Indeed, there was a film some years back in which David Bowie and Marlene Dietrich both featured. The film had several scenes in which Dietrich and Bowie were alone together, deep in talk. Bowie was later asked what he had made of the ageing, legendary Dietrich, and he revealed that he had never met her. Their scenes together were not shot in two-shot; the camera always cut from the face of one to the face of the other, and each person had played his or her part at a different time and in a different country.

Of course, theatre-goers would claim that at least the stage is for real. What you see is what you get. Everything happens as it happens. But this is not true either. Nightly, Macbeth dies at the end of the Scottish play. I can now reveal that he does not die at all, but only pretends to die - indeed, even more disgracefully, he comes back again the following night and the night after that, to die all over again.

Yet as soon as the curtain falls, the supposedly dead Macbeth jumps up and is as alive as ever.

I can also reveal that books are no more to be trusted. A travel writer once told me that half the conversations he put into his travel books were not remembered, but made up to resemble the sort of conversations he did have on the road. Trouble was, he now couldn't remember which half were made up and which were real.

So whom are we to trust?

Which documentary can we assume is really telling the truth about things?

If everything is rigged, can we believe anything?

Should I now reveal that this article is, in fact, totally fabricated from start to finish?

Of course not. But I can at least suggest a solution to the Carlton drug documentary dilemma.

The next time that they have a well shot, well made and well acted documentary which turns out to be based on a complete fiction, don't change the programme. Simply change the category and relabel it as a drama.

Arts and Entertainment

Film Leonardo DiCaprio hunts Tom Hardy

Arts and Entertainment
And now for something completely different: the ‘Sin City’ episode of ‘Casualty’
TV
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment

ebooksNow available in paperback
Arts and Entertainment

ebooks
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
SPONSORED FEATURES

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    Giants Club: After wholesale butchery of Idi Amin's regime, Uganda’s giants flourish once again

    Uganda's giants are flourishing once again

    After the wholesale butchery of Idi Amin's regime, elephant populations are finally recovering
    The London: After 350 years, the riddle of Britain's exploding fleet is finally solved

    After 350 years, the riddle of Britain's exploding fleet is finally solved

    Archaeologists will recover a crucial item from the wreck of the London which could help shed more light on what happened in the vessel's final seconds
    Airbus has patented a jet that could fly from London to New York in one hour

    Airbus has patented a jet that could fly from London to New York in one hour

    The invention involves turbojets and ramjets - a type of jet engine - and a rocket motor
    10 best sun creams for kids

    10 best sun creams for kids

    Protect delicate and sensitive skin with products specially formulated for little ones
    Tate Sensorium: New exhibition at Tate Britain invites art lovers to taste, smell and hear art

    Tate Sensorium

    New exhibition at Tate Britain invites art lovers to taste, smell and hear art
    Ashes 2015: Nice guy Steven Finn is making up for lost time – and quickly

    Nice guy Finn is making up for lost time – and quickly

    He was man-of-the-match in the third Test following his recall to the England side
    Ashes 2015: Remember Ashton Agar? The No 11 that nearly toppled England

    Remember Ashton Agar?

    The No 11 that nearly toppled England
    Turkey-Kurdish conflict: Obama's deal with Ankara is a betrayal of Syrian Kurds and may not even weaken Isis

    US betrayal of old ally brings limited reward

    Since the accord, the Turks have only waged war on Kurds while no US bomber has used Incirlik airbase, says Patrick Cockburn
    VIPs gather for opening of second Suez Canal - but doubts linger over security

    'A gift from Egypt to the rest of the world'

    VIPs gather for opening of second Suez Canal - but is it really needed?
    Jeremy Corbyn dresses abysmally. That's a great thing because it's genuine

    Jeremy Corbyn dresses abysmally. That's a great thing because it's genuine

    Fashion editor, Alexander Fury, applauds a man who clearly has more important things on his mind
    The male menopause and intimations of mortality

    Aches, pains and an inkling of mortality

    So the male menopause is real, they say, but what would the Victorians, 'old' at 30, think of that, asks DJ Taylor
    Man Booker Prize 2015: Anna Smaill - How can I possibly be on the list with these writers I have idolised?

    'How can I possibly be on the list with these writers I have idolised?'

    Man Booker Prize nominee Anna Smaill on the rise of Kiwi lit
    Bettany Hughes interview: The historian on how Socrates would have solved Greece's problems

    Bettany Hughes interview

    The historian on how Socrates would have solved Greece's problems
    Art of the state: Pyongyang propaganda posters to be exhibited in China

    Art of the state

    Pyongyang propaganda posters to be exhibited in China
    Mildreds and Vanilla Black have given vegetarian food a makeover in new cookbooks

    Vegetarian food gets a makeover

    Long-time vegetarian Holly Williams tries to recreate some of the inventive recipes in Mildreds and Vanilla Black's new cookbooks